NFV (Network functions virtualization)

AT&T, Orange Unite to Press for SDN, NFV Standards

AT&T and Orange are partnering to accelerate the standardization of interoperability in the SDN and NFV domains, and are hoping other major industry players will join them. But the pair isn't planning any new organizations and will, in fact, be using existing standards groups to finalize things, an AT&T executive said today. (See AT&T, Orange Team on SDN, NFV Standardization.)

By focusing on three specific aspects of virtualization -- common specifications for customer premises equipment, a streamlined common process for onboarding virtual network functions (VNFs) and interoperability between different operators' software-defined networks -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Orange (NYSE: FTE) hope to get a virtualized ecosystem in place faster to benefit themselves, their customers and the industry as a whole, said Roman Pacewicz, senior vice president of offer management and service integration at AT&T Business Solutions.

Specifics on how they hope to do that seem a little less certain -- there isn't a specific timetable or series of meetings scheduled -- but Pacewicz says there will be conversations between AT&T, Orange and other industry players that want to join the collaboration. Those will lead, in turn, to work that is then shared with groups such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) , NFV Industry Specifications Group (NFV ISG), Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. (OPNFV) and other organizations.

"Orange and AT&T have a relatively similar vision," Pacewicz says in an interview. "We want to drive acceleration of our approach as an industry, and drive standards, to create an ecosystem of partners who are able to leverage VNFs more readily and more simply. We also want to get to plug and play more readily, and define how we interface with one another, how we leverage each other's network for hybrid solutions. There is standards work to be done there."

Get up close and personal with service provider NFV strategies in our NFV Elements section here on Light Reading.

The three specific areas of focus are aimed at making services more universal and letting service providers that are adopting NFV and SDN connect to each other. The universal CPE would have common specs that allow gear to work in different network operator environments and with software from different companies: Today's deployments are done by individual network operators, working with a chosen set of vendors.

Similarly, the streamlined onboarding process for VNFs would move the industry toward a plug and play world of VNFs that could be used by any network operator and the standardized APIs would be designed to let operator SDNs interoperate, enabling virtualized network functions and services to be delivered across networks more easily.

Orange and AT&T aren't planning to develop joint products or services, Pacewicz stresses. Their collaboration is much more about industry leadership and hoping to foster faster standards work.

"This is not an AT&T and Orange thing," he says. "We want to move things along more quickly and go beyond the underlying infrastructure and control logic to have conversations about common standards for the devices we put on premises, the interoperability of those devices and VNFs and how we interconnect our networks."

Interoperability is certainly a key topic for operators introducing SDN and NFV capabilities and has been a key focus area of the independent test programs undertaken by The New IP Agency . (See DT Has High Hopes for the NIA, EXCLUSIVE! NFV Interop Evaluation Results and NIA Replacing 'Old Standards Bodies,' Says Cisco .)

By sparking interest in other operators and in the vendor community, the pair hope to get alignment sooner rather than later on broader standardization issues than have been considered to this point, Pacewicz says. To that end, it is forming specific teams to address the identified issues, with plans to take the teams' work as soon as possible to the appropriate standards groups.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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